Teenager helps put out fire in Winterport

Posted March 19, 2010, at 8:14 p.m.

WINTERPORT, Maine — Quick thinking by a local teenager prevented a garage fire from turning into an inferno Friday morning after her brother and some of his friends ignited a puddle of gasoline.

Fifteen-year-old Allyson Mitchell was baby-sitting her sister, two brothers and her brother’s three preteen friends at her Cove Road home Friday when her little sister, Erin Mitchell, ran into the house saying the garage was on fire.

Allyson, a sophomore at Hampden Academy, said Friday that she ran out to the garage and saw two fires burning, one in a pit about 20 feet from the two-car garage outside the house, and one inside the garage. She told the boys to run into the house and get a bucket of water.

Behind the flames in the garage, she spotted her youngest sibling, Heath Mitchell, 7.

“He didn’t want to move. He was in panic mode,” Allyson said Friday afternoon while sitting at her kitchen table petting her dog. “I grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the fire. He wanted to save his baseball gear.”

One of the older boys brought a bucket of water and Allyson splashed it over the outdoor fire, extinguishing the blaze.

The other fire was growing inside the garage. Allyson could see flames sprouting from a puddle of gasoline on the garage floor. She threw a bucket of water on those flames, “but it didn’t go out. It just spread gas everywhere,” Allyson said.

So she called her mother, who was at work.

“All I heard was ‘on fire,’” Allyson’s mother, Heather Mitchell, said. She set out for home immediately.

Allyson then called 911 and shut the garage door.

“I didn’t really know what to do,” she said.

The Winterport Fire Department responded and put the blaze out with a chemical extinguisher.

The children told Allyson they had been dipping sticks in gasoline and lighting them on fire. One of her brother’s friends had dropped a fiery stick near a 5-gallon jug full of gasoline in the garage. A gas puddle near the jug caught fire, as did a nearby bag of trash.

“It scared me to death,” said 9-year-old Erin. “I told them my mom said not to start the fire.”

It scared Heather Mitchell, too. She drove home from her job as an occupational therapist where she sometimes works with burn victims. She cried Friday afternoon as she reflected on what could have happened.

“All I kept thinking was ‘God, please don’t let the kids be in the garage,’” Heather Mitchell said.

The boys who were playing with the fire were friends of her 12-year-old son, Brigham Mitchell. Brigham said he was sitting on the couch playing video games while his friends were playing in the garage. Those boys, as a punishment, are going to work doing odd jobs for Heather Mitchell.

“I’m going to have those boys sweating,” she said.

No one was injured in the incident, but things could have been much worse, Winterport Fire Chief Thomas Doe said. Doe said if that plastic jug of gasoline had unsealed during the fire, it could have resulted in an explosion that would have filled the air in the garage with flames. Instead, the fire ate away at the fumes gradually.

“It was a pretty scary situation,” Doe said.

Doe said fire officials would visit the Winterport home in the near future to explain to the children the dangers of playing with fire.

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